A voice of experience has advice for this year’s prom-goers

By Tom West



As I have mentioned in this column, I am in the process of moving to Little Falls. I say “in the process” because we are waiting for our house to sell in Duluth before buying here.


In the meantime, I’m in Little Falls during the week and my wife is in Duluth, not an ideal situation. Some weekends she joins me here, but most weekends I go back there.


Each weekend I’m in Duluth, another purpose is served. My wife delivers a half dozen boxes full of our “clutter” to bring to Little Falls. This “clutter” is actually treasures that we cannot bear to part with, but which have no earthly value to anyone else but us.


Last weekend, she sent along a box full of scapbooks, including two I made of my checkered athletic career. In all the articles about football games in which I played (about 16 in all) my name was never mentioned, although I did come close one time when a teammate scored on a 60-yard touchdown run “behind solid blocking.”


Actually, the scrapbooks have a lot more in them besides old sports clippings. I somehow had the foresight to save programs from commencements, plays and banquets.


Since this is the time of year that high school proms are held, I was also reminded of the two proms that I attended. In both instances, my date was the young woman whom I thought was the most popular girl in her class. That I was able to snag two such catches is nothing short of miraculous, considering that at the time I was a complete social retard.


For the second prom, the most popular girl in my own class was without a date because of unusual circumstances. Her boyfriend had quit high school and joined the Marines. That was a big mistake in more ways than one. In fairness, however, at the time he joined the military, like the rest of us, he hadn’t heard of a place called Vietnam.


While I was happy to be his substitute, my scrapbook holds no memories from that evening. We began dating about a month before the prom, and our last date was on graduation night.


However, I have more mementos of my first prom, when I was a junior. The young woman, a senior, needed a date because her longstanding boyfriend was a year older and had gone off to college. They broke up – as often happens under the triple pressures of youth, absence and distance – and she needed to find someone else. In late winter, when the pairings for prom mostly come together, I was getting some ink playing for the basketball team, and so she set her sights on me.


It didn’t take much. Not being well-versed in the wiles of femininity, I was hooked before I knew it. When she suggested that we go to the prom – or more precisely after all her girlfriends told me I should ask her – I jumped at the chance.


Not long after, she asked me what I would be wearing. I thought my Sunday-best suit would do, but she thought a tuxedo would be better. “How’s that different from a suit?” I asked.


She explained that for one thing, I would be wearing a cummerbund. “What’s a cummerbund?” I replied.


She got a strange look on her face as in, “Am I really going to the prom with a moron?” and explained that it was a sash like thing that goes around the waist.


She also said I would be wearing a bowtie. Good to know.


When I picked up the tuxedo rental on the day of the prom, I managed to figure out the cummerbund and the bowtie, but the shirt had no buttons. In a near panic, I ran down to the jewelry store and bought four tie tacks to hold it together.


We must have looked pretty good because a photo of our date was preserved for posterity in the high school yearbook. We went to dinner, danced at the prom and stayed up all night at a party at a friend’s house. Alas, it will come as no surprise to you, although it did to me, that after that wonderful evening, our relationship lasted only about two more weeks.


Still, as I went through those old scrapbooks, a little dance card dropped out. Each table setting at the prom had one so we could write something romantic and memorable for our dates. This one was from that first prom. What unforgettable notion did my date write to me, something that would hold her in my heart down through the years? Was it my charm that captivated her that evening? How handsome I was?


She wrote, “Your tie tacks are lovely.”


My advice to this year’s prom-goers: Keep in mind your relationship with your date may be temporary but anything you write or video may last a lifetime.


Tom West is the editor/general manager of the Record. Reach him by calling 632-2345 or e-mail tom.west@mcrecord.com.

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